It’s unlikely you would go out of your way for a cup of aged tea, even if someone told you it was a delicacy. However, there is an exception to everything. Pu-erh is an unusual kind of tea; in fact, many people think it tastes better when it is old. Much like wine, it gets better with age.
Pu-erh, however, has a multitude of exceptional qualities that make it well worth trying, whether the buds are old or young. For instance, pu-erh is made from tea leaves that are broad, making the leaves a little different in chemical composition. Fortunately, for those interested in weight loss, this chemical composition helps burn more fat than many other teas.
The way in which pu-erh tea is processed is also notable. Aged pu-erh, or shu, is a post-fermented tea, but its younger variant (sheng) is a green tea. In fact, there are four kinds of pu-erh – maocha (green leaves), green/raw, ripened/cooked, and aged raw (considered the best). Although not all pu-erh is extremely expensive, raw pu-erh, aged from 10 to 50 years, can run thousands of dollars per ounce.
To prepare a delicious cup of pu-erh, you might consider buying mushroom pu-erh, or tuocha. These varieties are smaller and easier to steam. To serve it correctly, try gongfu style, using yixing teaware or a gaiwan teacup. Steep your pu-erh for about five to ten minutes if you want a deep, dark taste. It is acceptable to steep this aged variant for awhile as the slow oxidation and protracted fermentation process make pu-erh less astringent than some teas.